Companies Face Website Accessibility Deadline


The Canadian Press
Thursday, June 3, 2021

TORONTO – Time is running out for Ontario companies to show their websites comply with new standards making them more accessible for people with disabilities or face fines of up to $100,000.

Provincially regulated private-sector and not-for-profit organizations with more than 50 employees must ensure their sites are accessible for people with vision, hearing or other disabilities under legislation that took effect in January.

However, the Ford government has given until the end of this month for organizations to self-report on their compliance with international standard Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).

The WCAG guidelines, which are updated regularly much like software, outline how websites, smartphone apps and other digital tech can be used by people with a range of disabilities.

For example, there are standards for video captioning for people with hearing problems, high-contrast colour combinations for those with limited vision or descriptive audio for people who can’t see text or pictures.

Simon Dermer, who co-founded a Toronto company that helps organizations to put in place accessible digital platforms, says Ontario is the first jurisdiction in Canada to require the WCAG 2.0 standard but the province’s enforcement record could be better.

“Ontario does a very, very good job of articulating the things that need to be done in a manner that’s more intelligible to the average reader. But enforcement has been very lax, up until now,” says Dermer, executive chairman of Essential Accessibility.

The company provides organizations with a set of online tools to become compliant, then stay up-to-date as government rules in different jurisdictions and technology standards evolve.

Employment lawyer Paul Boshyk, who advises clients about what they need to do to comply with Ontario’s disability law, says enforcement falls under the Ministry of Seniors and Accessibility but it relies on a self-reporting process.

“When an organization files their report and identifies a gap in compliance that’s typically where the ministry would get involved,” says Boshyk, who is a partner at McMillan LLP

He says the ministry typically would contact a non-compliant company, give it a timetable for meeting the requirements and provide some support to explain what it needs to do to meet the deadline.

“A first offence, which is minor in nature, is only going to result in an administrative penalty of $500,” Boshyk says.

While the law establishes a maximum fine of $100,000 per day, Boshyk says that amount is limited by a set of schedules, where even a history of serious contraventions is subject to only a $15,000 fine for corporations

“So, the legislation has teeth – but the penalties are a lot less stiff than they otherwise would be,” Boshyk says.

But Dermer says the digital accessibility rules may get a lot of public scrutiny because the COVID-19 has highlighted the need for websites and apps that can effectively deliver commercial, government, medical and education services.

Original at https://www.orangeville.com/news-story/10408709-companies-face-website-accessibility-deadline/




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Thinking About the Obstacles People Face


This year’s Touchstone Award recognizes Professor Laverne Jacobs. BY Brigitte Pellerin 22 Feb 2021

If we are to address disability inequality, says Professor Laverne Jacobs, we need to start by acknowledging the structural inequalities facing people with disabilities in daily life

Unfortunately, it took a crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic to force society to think about equality issues differently, she notes. “Nevertheless, this is the biggest catalyst that I have seen in our time.”

Jacobs, who founded and directs the Law, Disability & Social Change Project at Windsor University, is the recipient of this year-s
Touchstone Award that recognizes efforts to further equality in the legal community.

As a Black woman with a disability, she hopes the award will encourage legal professionals to think about the obstacles faced by people with disabilities. ‘”Nothing should be done “without us,” she says. “And so I hope that this award will also inspire further allyship than what already exists.”

Jacobs, who experienced a spinal cord injury during her career, has been involved with the Ontario Bar Association since she was a graduate student. She served on the executive of its Administrative Law Section. This experience “has provided me with opportunities to think about the challenges faced by people with disabilities in the administrative justice system,” she explains, noting that access and equality for marginalized communities within the administrative justice system features prominently in her work.

Jacobs often reflects on intersectional challenges. She proudly points to the student researchers at the Law, Disability & Social Change Project to illustrate how their interests range from family law and business law to administrative and criminal matters, and other fields not directly related to disability.

“The students, despite their backgrounds and areas of legal interest are brought together through an effort to view situations in society through the lens of disability equality,” she explains. “When the students graduate and enter into practice, they are thinking about how disability inequality manifests itself in their practice area and, more fundamentally, with respect to the client circumstances that arise before them.”

Understanding the law is important, she says. But meaningfully advancing equality “is to set the law aside and think about how to be a good human being.”

The Touchstone Award celebrates the accomplishments of an individual or an organization who has excelled in promoting equality in the legal profession, the judiciary, or the legal community in Canada. The award recognizes successful promotion or furthering of equality at the national level or a significant contribution relating to race, gender, disability, sexual orientation or other diversity issues in the recipient’s community.

Laverne Jacobs is Associate Dean (Research & Graduate Studies) and an Associate Professor at the University of Windsor, Faculty of Law. She teaches, researches and writes in the areas of law and disability, administrative law and human rights. Her work is characterized by an interest in the everyday experiences of people with disabilities, particularly as they engage with the law, and in ensuring equality, inclusion and fairness within the legal system. Dr. Jacobs is particularly interested in issues at the intersection of disability, equality and the administrative justice system. She has published and presented widely in her fields, in Canada and internationally.

Dr. Jacobs founded and directs The Law, Disability & Social Change Project, a research and public advocacy centre at Windsor Law that works to foster and develop inclusive communities. Working from the disability rights motto, “nothing without us”, the centre undertakes a variety of projects that aim to feed grounded research and theory into policy development and legal decision-making. She is also co-director of the Disability Rights Working Group at Berkeley Law’s Center for Comparative Equality & Anti-Discrimination Law.

Professor Jacobs held the inaugural Fulbright Visiting Research Chair in Canadian Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, and was a Visiting Scholar at Berkeley Law’s Center for the Study of Law and Society. Outside of the University, she has held Order-in-Council appointments as a part-time member of the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario and as a member of the Accessibility Standards Advisory Council under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Dis

Original at https://www.nationalmagazine.ca/en-ca/articles/people/profiles/2021/thinking-about-the-obstacles-people-face




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64 Organizations Call for Action Now to ensure Patients will Not Face Disability Discrimination if COVID Surge Requires Critical Care Rationing


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance
ARCH Disability Law Centre

NEWS RELEASE – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

On the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, 64 Organizations Call for Immediate Action to ensure all Patients including those with Disabilities will Not be Discriminated Against if COVID Surge Requires Rationing of Critical Medical Care

December 3, 2020 Toronto: Today, to mark the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, 64 organizations and groups sent Premier Doug Ford a powerful open letter (below) pressing him to ensure that patients with disabilities face no discrimination in access to life-saving critical medical care if the skyrocketing COVID surge requires rationing or triage of critical care. They urge an end to protracted Government secrecy over its triage plans. They ask Ford to release the recommended triage rules that Fords Bioethics Table gave the Government in September.

Signatories represent people with vision loss, the Deaf, HIV & AIDS, persons labelled with intellectual disabilities, autism, mental health and psychosocial disabilities, communication disabilities, neuromuscular disabilities, neurological disabilities, and mobility disabilities, as well as respected cross-disability organizations.

From the outset, this process has been plagued by secrecy and that lack of transparency continues to dominate. Last March, the Government sent Ontario hospitals a discriminatory critical care triage protocol which was never made public, said Robert Lattanzio, Executive Director of the ARCH Disability Law Centre, a disability rights legal clinic. If applied, the discriminatory nature of that protocol would have disproportionately impacted persons with disabilities and persons from other equity seeking groups. Following public outcry and over six months of advocacy, the Government finally cancelled that secret triage protocol but more must be done.

Its a good partial step that Ford cancelled his earlier discriminatory March critical care triage protocol, but hes created a dangerous vacuum if the COVID surge necessitates critical care triage. Doctors could choose whom to deny life-saving critical care based on stereotypes or unconscious bias about disabilities, said David Lepofsky, chair of the non-partisan AODA Alliance that advocates for accessibility for 2.6 million Ontarians with disabilities. Its wrong for the Ford Government to promise openness in its response to COVID, but to keep secret its Bioethics Tables new recommendations on how to fill this vacuum, especially when the Ontario Human Rights Commission said those recommendations raise human rights concerns.

When the NDP pressed the Ford Government on November 5 to make public its secret Bioethics Tables triage recommendations, the Government said it may send a new triage framework to health professionals if conditions deteriorate significantly. It never committed to let the public see that new triage framework. Since November 5, COVID-19 conditions have deteriorated significantly. New daily infections break records day after day. Government models project horrifying increases. A growing number of communities have been locked down. – 30 –
Contact:

AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky
Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @aodaalliance

Robert Lattanzio, Executive Director
ARCH Disability Law Centre
Toll-free: 1-866-482-2724 extension 2233
Email: [email protected]

For more background on this issue, check out:
1. The November 5, 2020 exchange in Question Period on the critical care triage issue.
2. The AODA Alliances unanswered September 25, 2020 letter, its November 2, 2020 letter and its November 9, 2020 letter to Health Minister Christine Elliott
3. The August 30, 2020 AODA Alliance submission to the Ford Governments Bioethics Table, and a captioned online video of the AODA Alliances August 31, 2020 oral presentation to the Bioethics Table on disability discrimination concerns in critical care triage.
4. The September 1, 2020 submission and July 20, 2020 submission by the ARCH Disability Law Centre to the Bioethics Table.
5. The November 5, 2020 captioned online speech by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky on the disability rights concerns with Ontarios critical care triage protocol

6. The April 14, 2020 AODA Alliance Discussion Paper on Ensuring that Medical Triage or Rationing of Health Care Services During the COVID-19 Crisis Does Not Discriminate Against Patients with Disabilities.
7. The AODA Alliance websites health care page, detailing its efforts to tear down barriers in the health care system facing patients with disabilities, and our COVID-19 page, detailing our efforts to address the needs of people with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis.
8. The ARCH Disability Law Centre websites COVID-19 page offers more about ARCHs work on the clinical triage protocol, including a September 15, 2020 published article, visitation ban policies, access to technology and other issues concerning the rights of persons with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis. Text of the December 3, 2020 Open Letter to the Ontario Government

OPEN LETTER: Ontarios COVID-19 Clinical Triage Protocol
December 3, 2020

To: Hon. Doug Ford, Premier of Ontario
Legislative Building
Queens Park
Toronto, ON M7A 1A1
Via email: [email protected]

Hon. Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health of Ontario College Park 5th Floor,
777 Bay Street, Toronto, ON M7A 2J3
Via email: [email protected]

Hon. Raymond Sung Joon Cho, Minister of Seniors and Accessibility of Ontario Ministry for Seniors and Accessibility
College Park, 5th Floor
777 Bay Street, Toronto, ON M5G 2C8
Via email: [email protected]

Dear Hon. Premier Ford, Hon. Deputy Premier and Minister Elliott, and Hon. Minister Cho: Re: Ontarios COVID-19 Clinical Triage Protocol
We write about a life-and-death issue now facing Ontarians over which the Ontario Government has key responsibility. COVID-19 continues to surge, repeatedly breaking prior records for daily new infections. Expert projections show that this surge will continue to get worse, reaching new record infection rates. Our hospitals are being strained to the limit. The risk grows that hospitals may get overwhelmed, with more demand for critical medical care than there are critical care beds, staff and services to meet that demand. If that happens, it would be necessary for there to be triage or rationing of critical care. Some patients, needing life-saving critical care, may be refused that care a publicly-insured medical service covered by OHIP.
Last spring, the Ontario Government sent a March 28, 2020 critical care protocol to all Ontario hospitals, directing how hospitals should decide whom to refuse critical care they need, if triage becomes necessary. The Government did not make public its March 28, 2020 critical care triage protocol, or the fact that it had been sent to Ontario hospitals.
When word of that protocol leaked, an April 8, 2020 open letter to the Ontario Government was sent by over 200 disability organizations and groups, and over 4,800 individuals. It expressed the serious concern that the Governments March 28, 2020 critical care triage protocol would discriminate against some patients with disabilities. It called for that protocol to be cancelled, and for the Government to consult people with disabilities on this issue.
In response to an opposition question during Question Period in the Legislature on November 5, 2020, the Government revealed that it had cancelled the March 28, 2020 critical care triage protocol. We commend the Government for cancelling it.
However, to our knowledge, the Government has not put in place a replacement for the March 28, 2020 protocol. If critical care triage becomes necessary, decisions over who gets refused life-saving critical care would be wrongly left to individual hospitals and doctors, without safeguards against the serious danger of arbitrary and discriminatory decisions made because of disability.
Last winter, the Ontario Government appointed a Bioethics Table, including doctors and bioethicists, to give advice in this area. That Table wrote the March 28, 2020 critical care triage protocol, now cancelled. Last summer, the Bioethics Table held meetings and consultations on this issue, including meetings with some disability advocates and experts.
In mid-September 2020, The Bioethics Table submitted a report to the Ontario Government Ministry of Health, to Ontario Health (part of the Government) and to the Ontario Human Rights Commission. That report made recommendations on how critical care triage should be conducted, to replace the March 28, 2020 triage protocol. The Government has refused to make that report public.
The Bioethics Table itself and the Ontario Human Rights Commission have called on the Government to make public the Bioethics Tables report and recommendations. The Ontario Human Rights Commission has expressed that the human rights concerns persist with the Bioethics Tables recommendations.
On November 5, 2020, the Government stated in the Legislature that it may provide a new critical care triage framework to health professionals if conditions deteriorate significantly. To continue waiting creates great risk that any new critical care triage framework that discriminates against patients with disabilities cannot be fixed if it becomes too late, and triage is already taking place. It took the disability community over six months to get the discriminatory March 28, 2020 triage protocol withdrawn. Moreover, the COVID-19 situation is now deteriorating significantly, with modelling projecting that it risks quickly getting much worse.
Accordingly, the organizations and groups that are signatories to this open letter call on the Ontario Government to:

1. Immediately make public the report and recommendations of the Government-appointed Bioethics Table submitted to the Government in mid-September, which are now secret, on how to choose which patients should be refused critical care if the COVID-19 pandemic overwhelms hospitals, requiring triage or rationing of critical care beds and services.
2. Now hold an open, accessible and inclusive public consultation on how such critical care triage decisions should be made, and what protections for patients must be in place.
3. Develop and make public any new directives or protocols regarding critical care triage, and ensure that they are primarily guided by, and respect, the constitutional and human rights of all patients, including patients with disabilities, ensure due process to patients that are exposed to the risk of being denied life-saving critical care due to triage or rationing of that care, and that such directives and protocols are founded on a properly mandated legislative foundation.

We urge the Government to act immediately in response to this call for action.

Sincerely,

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance (AODA Alliance) Accessible Housing Network
Advocacy Centre for the Elderly (ACE)
Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians/l’Alliance pour l’Égalité des Personnes Aveugles du Canada ARCH Disability Law Centre
Barrier-Free Canada/Canada Sans Barrieres (BFC/CSB)
B.C. Aboriginal Network on Disability Society
Bellwoods Centres for Community Living Inc
Breaking Down Barriers Independent Living Resource Centre
Brockville and District Association for Community Involvement Canadian Autism Spectrum Disorder Alliance
Canadian Down Syndrome Society
Centre for Independent Living in Toronto (CILT)
Chatham-Kent Legal Clinic
Citizens With Disabilities – Ontario (CWDO)
CNIB Foundation
Communication Disabilities Access Canada
Community Living Chatham-Kent
Community Living Ontario
Community Living Prince Edward
Council of Canadians With Disabilities
DeafBlind Ontario Services
DEEN Support Services
Durham Association for Family Resources and Support
Empowered Kids Ontario
Family Network Thames Valley
Family Support Network-York region
Good Things In Life
Guelph Independent Living
Guide Dog Users of Canada
Hamilton Community Legal Clinic/Clinique juridique communautaire de Hamilton HIV & AIDS Legal Clinic Ontario
HIV Legal Network
Hydrocephalus Canada
Inclusion Canada
Independent Living Canada
Injured Workers Community Legal Clinic
Joyce Scott Non Profit Homes Inc.
Lupus Canada
March of Dimes Canada
MPN Ontario Patient Support Group
Muscular Dystrophy Canada
National Coalition of People who use Guide and Service Dogs
National Network for Mental Health
Network of Women with Disabilities NOW
Ontario Association of the Deaf
Ontario Disability Coalition
Ontario Federation for Cerebral Palsy
Ontario Parents of Visually Impaired Children OPVIC (Also known as Views for the Visually Impaired) OPTIONS NORTHWEST
Organization of Canadian Tamils with Disabilities
Parents of Adults with Developmental Disabilities
Peterborough Community Legal Centre
PHSS – Medical and Complex Care in Community
PooranLaw Professional Corporation
RISE: Resource Centre for Independent Living
Shannon law office
Spinal Cord Injury Ontario
Sudbury Community Legal Clinic
Susan Morris Consulting Inc
Tangled Art + Disability
The Older Women’s Network
The Ontario Autism Coalition
Working for Change




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New captioned Video is Unveiled Today on Hardships People with Disabilities Face During the COVID-19 Pandemic, To Mark This Sunday, the 26th Anniversary of the Birth of Ontario’s Grassroots Movement for Disability Accessibility


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities
Web: http://www.aodaalliance.org Email: [email protected] Twitter: @aodaalliance Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/aodaalliance/

November 27, 2020

SUMMARY

Happy birthday to us! This Sunday, November 29, 2020, is the 26th anniversary of the birth of Ontario’s unstoppable grassroots non-partisan movement that successfully campaigned for a decade from 1994 to 2005 to get the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act passed, and that has tenaciously campaigned since then to get the AODA effectively implemented. To mark this anniversary, we today unveil another captioned video. It is the newest addition to our large and growing collection of captioned online videos on the important subject of accessibility for people with disabilities.

This newest captioned video is entitled: “Advocating to Address the Added Hardships that COVID-19 Imposes on People with Disabilities.” For the past 8 months, the AODA Alliance has focused our advocacy efforts on the many barriers that people with disabilities are facing during the COVID-19 pandemic, especially in the areas of education for students with disabilities and health care for patients with disabilities. In this one-hour talk by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky, you can learn all about the barriers we’ve faced, the corrective actions we’ve sought, the results we’ve achieved, and the lessons to be learned from the experience of people with disabilities during this pandemic.

This new video is available online at: https://youtu.be/yB5i7cCiw68

You can read all about the issues addressed in this newest video by visiting the AODA Alliance website’s COVID-19 page.

While we’re at it, why don’t we also remind you of the three other important new captioned videos that the AODA Alliance made public over the past few weeks:

1. Tips for Parents of Students with Disabilities on How to Advocate for Your Child’s Needs in the School system, available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TtadvCvcGC0

2. The Threat to Disability Rights If Critical Medical Care Must Be Rationed or Triaged During the COVID-19 Pandemic, available at https://youtu.be/MxpHXUYNP4A

3. The AODA Alliance’s August 31, 2020 Presentation to the Ford Government’s “Bioethics Table” on the Need to Protect Disability Rights If Critical Medical Care Must be Triaged or Rationed, available at https://youtu.be/MAigGhN5zB4

4. AODA 101 An Introduction to the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, available at https://youtu.be/zrPLb3N1DBQ

We have already gotten great feedback on these videos so far. We’d welcome your feedback too! Write us at [email protected]

Please share these videos with others and encourage them to watch them. Please post links to our videos on your social media.

If you are a school teacher or a professor in a college or university, please feel free to use all or part of any of our videos in your courses. They can be helpful in courses or programs on a diverse spectrum of topics, such as law, education, health, medicine, public policy, political science, human rights, disability studies, civics, bioethics, and history.

We also invite you to learn more about the historic events of November 29, 1994 that led to the birth of the grassroots AODA movement that is as tenacious and relentless as ever 26 years later. Read a description of those historic events, set out below.!

We still have so much more to do! There have now been 666 days, or almost 22 months, since the Ford Government received the ground-breaking final report of the Independent Review of the implementation of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act by former Ontario Lieutenant Governor David Onley. The Government has announced no comprehensive plan of new action to implement that report. That makes even worse the serious problems facing Ontarians with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis, addressed in the new video we unveil today.

MORE DETAILS

EXCERPT FROM “THE LONG ARDUOUS ROAD TO A BARRIER-FREE ONTARIO FOR PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES: THE HISTORY OF THE ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT – THE FIRST CHAPTER” BY DAVID LEPOFSKY, PUBLISHED IN THE NATIONAL JOURNAL OF CONSTITUTIONAL LAW, VOLUME 15.

a) The Birth of the Organized ODA Movement

The realization within Ontario’s disability community that a new law was needed to tear down the barriers facing persons with disabilities did not take place all at once as the result of a single catastrophic event. Rather, it resulted slowly from a simmering, gradual process. That process led to the birth of Ontario’s organized ODA movement.

How then did the organized ODA movement get started? Most would naturally think that it is the birth of a civil rights movement that later spawns the introduction into a legislature of a new piece of civil rights legislation. Ironically in the case of the organized ODA movement, the opposite was the case. The same ironic twist had occurred 15 years before when the Ontario Coalition for Human Rights for the Handicapped formed in reaction to the Government’s introduction of a stand-alone piece of disability rights legislation.

In the early 1990s, after the enactment in the U.S. of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in 1990, sporadic voices in Ontario began discussing the idea of seeking the enactment of something called an “Ontarians with Disabilities Act.” There was little if any focused attention on what this new law would contain. It was understood from the outset that an ODA would not be a carbon copy of the ADA. For example, some parts of the ADA were already incorporated in the Ontario Human Rights Code. There was no need to replicate them again.

In the 1990 Ontario provincial election campaign (which happened to take place just days after the U.S. had enacted the Americans with Disabilities Act) NDP leader Bob Rae responded to a disability rights legal clinic’s all-party election platform questionnaire in August 1990 with a letter which, among other things, supported appropriate legislation along the lines of an Ontarians with Disabilities Act. Rae’s letter didn’t spell out what this law would include. This letter did not get serious airplay in that election campaign. It was not well-known when the NDP came from behind in the polls to win that provincial election. Because the NDP had not been expected to win, it was widely seen as campaigning on a range of election commitments that it never anticipated having the opportunity to implement.

Despite sporadic discussions among some in the early 1990s, there was no grassroots groundswell in Ontario supporting an ODA. There was also no major grassroots political force building to push for one. This was quite similar to the fact that there was no organized grassroots disability rights movement pushing for the inclusion of disability equality in the Ontario Human Rights Code in 1979, before the Ontario Government proposed its new disability discrimination legislation in that year. In the early 1990s, Ontario disability organizations involved in disability advocacy were primarily focused on other things, such as the NDP Ontario Government’s proposed Employment Equity Act, expected to be the first provincial legislation of its kind in Canada. That legislation, aimed at increasing the employment of persons with disabilities as well as women, racial minorities and Aboriginal persons, was on the agenda of the provincial New Democratic Party that was then in power in Ontario.

What ultimately led to the birth of a province-wide, organized grassroots ODA movement in Ontario was the decision of an NDP back-bench member of the Ontario Legislature, Gary Malkowski, to introduce into the Legislature a private member’s ODA bill in the Spring of 1994, over three years into the NDP Government’s term in office. By that time, the NDP Government had not brought forward a Government ODA bill. Malkowski decided to bring forward Bill 168, the first proposed Ontarians with Disabilities Act, to focus public and political interest in this new issue. Malkowski was well-known as Ontario’s, and indeed North America’s, first elected parliamentarian who was deaf. Ontario’s New Democratic Party Government, then entering the final year of its term in office, allowed Malkowski’s bill to proceed to a Second Reading vote in the Ontario Legislature in June, 1994, and then to public hearings before a committee of the Ontario Legislature in November and December 1994.

In 1994, word got around various quarters in Ontario’s disability community that Malkowski had introduced this bill. Interest in it started to percolate. Malkowski met with groups in the disability community, urging them to come together to support his bill. He called for the disability community to unite in a new coalition to support an Ontarians with Disabilities Act. A significant number of persons with disabilities turned up at the Ontario Legislature when this bill came forward for Second Reading debate in the Spring of 1994.

Over the spring, summer and fall months of 1994, around the same time as Malkowski was coming forward with his ODA bill, some of the beginnings of the organized ODA movement were also simmering within an organization of Ontario Government employees with disabilities. Under the governing NDP, the Ontario Government had set up an “Advisory Group” of provincial public servants with disabilities to advise it on measures to achieve equality for persons with disabilities in the Ontario Public Service. In the Spring of 1994, this Advisory Group set as one of its priorities working within the machinery of the Ontario Government to promote the idea of an ODA.

This public service Advisory Group met with several provincial Cabinet Ministers and later with Ontario’s Premier, Bob Rae, to discuss the idea of an ODA. It successfully pressed the Government to hold public hearings on Malkowski’s ODA bill.

As 1994 progressed, Malkowski’s bill served its important purpose. It sparked the attention and interest of several players in Ontario’s disability community in the idea of an ODA. No one was then too preoccupied with the details of the contents of Malkowski’s ODA bill.

Malkowski’s bill had an even more decisive effect on November 29, 1994, when it first came before the Legislature’s Standing Committee for debate and public hearings. On that date, NDP Citizenship Minister Elaine Ziemba was asked to make a presentation to the Committee on the Government’s views on Malkowski’s bill. She was called upon to do this before community groups would be called on to start making presentations to the legislative committee. The hearing room was packed with persons with disabilities, eager to hear what the Minister would have to say.

Much to the audience’s dismay, the Minister’s lengthy speech said little if anything about the bill. She focused instead on the Government’s record on other disability issues. The temperature in the room elevated as the audience’s frustration mounted.

When the committee session ended for the day, word quickly spread among the audience that all were invited to go to another room in Ontario’s legislative building. An informal, impromptu gathering came together to talk about taking action in support of Malkowski’s bill. Malkowski passionately urged those present to come together and to get active on this cause.

I was one of the 20 or so people who made their way into that room. In an informal meeting that lasted about an hour, it was unanimously decided to form a new coalition to fight for a strong and effective Ontarians with Disabilities Act. There was no debate over the content of such legislation at that meeting. However, there was a strong and united realization that new legislation was desperately needed, and that a new coalition needed to be formed to fight for it. This coalition did not spawn the first ODA bill. Rather, the first ODA bill had spawned this coalition.

Days later, in December 1994, the Legislature’s Standing Committee held two full days of hearings into Malkowski’s bill. A significant number of organizations, including disability community organizations, appeared before the Legislature’s Standing Committee to submit briefs and make presentations on the need for new legislation in this area. Among the groups that made presentations was the Ontario Public Service Disability Advisory Group which had pressed for these hearings to be held. Its brief later served as a core basis for briefs and positions that would be presented by the brand-new Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee.




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New captioned Video is Unveiled Today on Hardships People with Disabilities Face During the COVID-19 Pandemic, To Mark This Sunday, the 26th Anniversary of the Birth of Ontario’s Grassroots Movement for Disability Accessibility


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities

Web: www.aodaalliance.org Email: [email protected] Twitter: @aodaalliance Facebook: www.facebook.com/aodaalliance/

New captioned Video is Unveiled Today on Hardships People with Disabilities Face During the COVID-19 Pandemic, To Mark This Sunday, the 26th Anniversary of the Birth of Ontario’s Grassroots Movement for Disability Accessibility

November 27, 2020

            SUMMARY

Happy birthday to us! This Sunday, November 29, 2020, is the 26th anniversary of the birth of Ontario’s unstoppable grassroots non-partisan movement that successfully campaigned for a decade from 1994 to 2005 to get the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act passed, and that has tenaciously campaigned since then to get the AODA effectively implemented. To mark this anniversary, we today unveil another captioned video. It is the newest addition to our large and growing collection of captioned online videos on the important subject of accessibility for people with disabilities.

This newest captioned video is entitled: “Advocating to Address the Added Hardships that COVID-19 Imposes on People with Disabilities.” For the past 8 months, the AODA Alliance has focused our advocacy efforts on the many barriers that people with disabilities are facing during the COVID-19 pandemic, especially in the areas of education for students with disabilities and health care for patients with disabilities. In this one-hour talk by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky, you can learn all about the barriers we’ve faced, the corrective actions we’ve sought, the results we’ve achieved, and the lessons to be learned from the experience of people with disabilities during this pandemic.

This new video is available online at: https://youtu.be/yB5i7cCiw68

You can read all about the issues addressed in this newest video by visiting the AODA Alliance website’s COVID-19 page.

While we’re at it, why don’t we also remind you of the three other important new captioned videos that the AODA Alliance made public over the past few weeks:

  1. Tips for Parents of Students with Disabilities on How to Advocate for Your Child’s Needs in the School system, available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TtadvCvcGC0
  1. The Threat to Disability Rights If Critical Medical Care Must Be Rationed or Triaged During the COVID-19 Pandemic, available at https://youtu.be/MxpHXUYNP4A
  1. The AODA Alliance’s August 31, 2020 Presentation to the Ford Government’s “Bioethics Table” on the Need to Protect Disability Rights If Critical Medical Care Must be Triaged or Rationed, available at https://youtu.be/MAigGhN5zB4
  1. AODA 101 – An Introduction to the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, available at https://youtu.be/zrPLb3N1DBQ

We have already gotten great feedback on these videos so far. We’d welcome your feedback too! Write us at [email protected]

Please share these videos with others and encourage them to watch them. Please post links to our videos on your social media.

If you are a school teacher or a professor in a college or university, please feel free to use all or part of any of our videos in your courses. They can be helpful in courses or programs on a diverse spectrum of topics, such as law, education, health, medicine, public policy, political science, human rights, disability studies, civics, bioethics, and history.

We also invite you to learn more about the historic events of November 29, 1994 that led to the birth of the grassroots AODA movement that is as tenacious and relentless as ever 26 years later. Read a description of those historic events, set out below.!

We still have so much more to do! There have now been 666 days, or almost 22 months, since the Ford Government received the ground-breaking final report of the Independent Review of the implementation of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act by former Ontario Lieutenant Governor David Onley. The Government has announced no comprehensive plan of new action to implement that report. That makes even worse the serious problems facing Ontarians with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis, addressed in the new video we unveil today.

            MORE DETAILS

EXCERPT FROM “THE LONG ARDUOUS ROAD TO A BARRIER-FREE ONTARIO FOR PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES: THE HISTORY OF THE ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT – THE FIRST CHAPTER” BY DAVID LEPOFSKY, PUBLISHED IN THE NATIONAL JOURNAL OF CONSTITUTIONAL LAW, VOLUME 15.

  1. a) The Birth of the Organized ODA Movement

The realization within Ontario’s disability community that a new law was needed to tear down the barriers facing persons with disabilities did not take place all at once as the result of a single catastrophic event. Rather, it resulted slowly from a simmering, gradual process. That process led to the birth of Ontario’s organized ODA movement.

How then did the organized ODA movement get started? Most would naturally think that it is the birth of a civil rights movement that later spawns the introduction into a legislature of a new piece of civil rights legislation. Ironically in the case of the organized ODA movement, the opposite was the case. The same ironic twist had occurred 15 years before when the Ontario Coalition for Human Rights for the Handicapped formed in reaction to the Government’s introduction of a stand-alone piece of disability rights legislation.

In the early 1990s, after the enactment in the U.S. of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in 1990, sporadic voices in Ontario began discussing the idea of seeking the enactment of something called an “Ontarians with Disabilities Act.” There was little if any focused attention on what this new law would contain. It was understood from the outset that an ODA would not be a carbon copy of the ADA. For example, some parts of the ADA were already incorporated in the Ontario Human Rights Code. There was no need to replicate them again.

In the 1990 Ontario provincial election campaign (which happened to take place just days after the U.S. had enacted the Americans with Disabilities Act) NDP leader Bob Rae responded to a disability rights legal clinic’s all-party election platform questionnaire in August 1990 with a letter which, among other things, supported appropriate legislation along the lines of an Ontarians with Disabilities Act. Rae’s letter didn’t spell out what this law would include. This letter did not get serious airplay in that election campaign. It was not well-known when the NDP came from behind in the polls to win that provincial election. Because the NDP had not been expected to win, it was widely seen as campaigning on a range of election commitments that it never anticipated having the opportunity to implement.

Despite sporadic discussions among some in the early 1990s, there was no grassroots groundswell in Ontario supporting an ODA. There was also no major grassroots political force building to push for one. This was quite similar to the fact that there was no organized grassroots disability rights movement pushing for the inclusion of disability equality in the Ontario Human Rights Code in 1979, before the Ontario Government proposed its new disability discrimination legislation in that year. In the early 1990s, Ontario disability organizations involved in disability advocacy were primarily focused on other things, such as the NDP Ontario Government’s proposed Employment Equity Act, expected to be the first provincial legislation of its kind in Canada. That legislation, aimed at increasing the employment of persons with disabilities as well as women, racial minorities and Aboriginal persons, was on the agenda of the provincial New Democratic Party that was then in power in Ontario.

What ultimately led to the birth of a province-wide, organized grassroots ODA movement in Ontario was the decision of an NDP back-bench member of the Ontario Legislature, Gary Malkowski, to introduce into the Legislature a private member’s ODA bill in the Spring of 1994, over three years into the NDP Government’s term in office. By that time, the NDP Government had not brought forward a Government ODA bill. Malkowski decided to bring forward Bill 168, the first proposed Ontarians with Disabilities Act, to focus public and political interest in this new issue. Malkowski was well-known as Ontario’s, and indeed North America’s, first elected parliamentarian who was deaf. Ontario’s New Democratic Party Government, then entering the final year of its term in office, allowed Malkowski’s bill to proceed to a Second Reading vote in the Ontario Legislature in June, 1994, and then to public hearings before a committee of the Ontario Legislature in November and December 1994.

In 1994, word got around various quarters in Ontario’s disability community that Malkowski had introduced this bill. Interest in it started to percolate. Malkowski met with groups in the disability community, urging them to come together to support his bill. He called for the disability community to unite in a new coalition to support an Ontarians with Disabilities Act. A significant number of persons with disabilities turned up at the Ontario Legislature when this bill came forward for Second Reading debate in the Spring of 1994.

Over the spring, summer and fall months of 1994, around the same time as Malkowski was coming forward with his ODA bill, some of the beginnings of the organized ODA movement were also simmering within an organization of Ontario Government employees with disabilities. Under the governing NDP, the Ontario Government had set up an “Advisory Group” of provincial public servants with disabilities to advise it on measures to achieve equality for persons with disabilities in the Ontario Public Service. In the Spring of 1994, this Advisory Group set as one of its priorities working within the machinery of the Ontario Government to promote the idea of an ODA.

This public service Advisory Group met with several provincial Cabinet Ministers and later with Ontario’s Premier, Bob Rae, to discuss the idea of an ODA. It successfully pressed the Government to hold public hearings on Malkowski’s ODA bill.

As 1994 progressed, Malkowski’s bill served its important purpose. It sparked the attention and interest of several players in Ontario’s disability community in the idea of an ODA. No one was then too preoccupied with the details of the contents of Malkowski’s ODA bill.

Malkowski’s bill had an even more decisive effect on November 29, 1994, when it first came before the Legislature’s Standing Committee for debate and public hearings. On that date, NDP Citizenship Minister Elaine Ziemba was asked to make a presentation to the Committee on the Government’s views on Malkowski’s bill. She was called upon to do this before community groups would be called on to start making presentations to the legislative committee. The hearing room was packed with persons with disabilities, eager to hear what the Minister would have to say.

Much to the audience’s dismay, the Minister’s lengthy speech said little if anything about the bill. She focused instead on the Government’s record on other disability issues. The temperature in the room elevated as the audience’s frustration mounted.

When the committee session ended for the day, word quickly spread among the audience that all were invited to go to another room in Ontario’s legislative building. An informal, impromptu gathering came together to talk about taking action in support of Malkowski’s bill. Malkowski passionately urged those present to come together and to get active on this cause.

I was one of the 20 or so people who made their way into that room. In an informal meeting that lasted about an hour, it was unanimously decided to form a new coalition to fight for a strong and effective Ontarians with Disabilities Act. There was no debate over the content of such legislation at that meeting. However, there was a strong and united realization that new legislation was desperately needed, and that a new coalition needed to be formed to fight for it. This coalition did not spawn the first ODA bill. Rather, the first ODA bill had spawned this coalition.

Days later, in December 1994, the Legislature’s Standing Committee held two full days of hearings into Malkowski’s bill. A significant number of organizations, including disability community organizations, appeared before the Legislature’s Standing Committee to submit briefs and make presentations on the need for new legislation in this area. Among the groups that made presentations was the Ontario Public Service Disability Advisory Group which had pressed for these hearings to be held. Its brief later served as a core basis for briefs and positions that would be presented by the brand-new Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee.



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Students With Disabilities Face More Obstacles Returning to Class: Advocates


Osobe Waberi, The Canadian Press
Published Saturday, August 22, 2020

TORONTO — Advocacy groups in Ontario say students with disabilities will face additional obstacles returning to class following the pandemic, leaving parents unsure if their children will be fully and safely included in school reopening plans.

The Ontario Autism Coalition and the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance held an online town hall meeting Friday to discuss what they say is the provincial government’s “failure” to put parents at ease with the school year looming.

OAC president Laura Kirby-McIntosh said when it comes to welcoming children with disabilities back to school, the province is doing the bare minimum at best.

“The Ministry of Education’s guide to reopening Ontario schools is not really a plan,” she said in an interview. “What we get is some very nice words.”

Kirby-McIntosh said the province’s school system is designed primarily with non-disabled children in mind, and while children with disabilities are treated as an afterthought.

“One thing that COVID has done very effectively is it has exposed systemic issues across our society — of racism, medical infrastructure — and now we are getting to school infrastructure.”

A spokeswoman for Education Minister Stephen Lecce said the government has allocated $10 million in additional funding specifically dedicated to supporting students with special education needs.

“We are spending more money than any other province on special education,” Caitlin Clark said.

However, Kirby-McIntosh said schools run on more than just money.

“They run on good planning,” she said. “Yes, they are spending more money on schools, but why wait until the third week of August to announce that? I don’t feel that we are ready, it is not good enough.”

AODA Alliance chair David Lepofsky said both his group and the Autism Coalition have offered plenty of proposals and advice to the government, before and during the pandemic, in relation to students with special needs.

“Not one public official at the Ministry of Education picked up the phone to ask for more information, and they have done nothing about it,” he said.

Lepofsky said students with disabilities risk not being fully supported during the pandemic and through their education. Even worse, he said, is the looming fear of being told they can not attend in-person learning come the fall school year.

Toronto District School Board spokesman Ryan Bird assured parents that when it comes to students with special needs, the board has a number of congregate sites available for them in the fall.

“These schools specialize in supporting these students and that will continue,” he said, noting the TDSB is trying to get as much information as possible to parents in the upcoming days and weeks.

“We get the frustration from parents, and we understand that there are important decisions to be made in sending your child back to school in September,” he said.

“We realize the time is ticking.”

Original at https://www.cp24.com/news/students-with-disabilities-face-more-obstacles-returning-to-class-advocates-1.5075009




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Students with disabilities face more obstacles returning to class, Ontario advocates say


TORONTO — Advocacy groups in Ontario say students with disabilities will face additional obstacles returning to class following the pandemic, leaving parents unsure if their children will be fully and safely included in school reopening plans.

The Ontario Autism Coalition and the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance held an online town hall meeting Friday to discuss what they say is the provincial government’s “failure” to put parents at ease with the school year looming.

OAC president Laura Kirby-McIntosh said when it comes to welcoming children with disabilities back to school, the province is doing the bare minimum at best.

“The Ministry of Education’s guide to reopening Ontario schools is not really a plan,” she said in an interview. “What we get is some very nice words.”

Read more:
‘I need help’: Coronavirus highlights disparities among Canadians with disabilities

Story continues below advertisement

Kirby-McIntosh said the province’s school system is designed primarily with non-disabled children in mind, and while children with disabilities are treated as an afterthought.

“One thing that COVID has done very effectively is it has exposed systemic issues across our society — of racism, medical infrastructure — and now we are getting to school infrastructure.”

A spokeswoman for Education Minister Stephen Lecce said the government has allocated $10 million in additional funding specifically dedicated to supporting students with special education needs.

“We are spending more money than any other province on special education,” Caitlin Clark said.

However, Kirby-McIntosh said schools run on more than just money.

“They run on good planning,” she said. “Yes, they are spending more money on schools, but why wait until the third week of August to announce that? I don’t feel that we are ready, it is not good enough.”






Pandemic hard on children with autism


Pandemic hard on children with autism

AODA Alliance chair David Lepofsky said both his group and the Autism Coalition have offered plenty of proposals and advice to the government, before and during the pandemic, in relation to students with special needs.

Story continues below advertisement

“Not one public official at the Ministry of Education picked up the phone to ask for more information, and they have done nothing about it,” he said.

Lepofsky said students with disabilities risk not being fully supported during the pandemic and through their education. Even worse, he said, is the looming fear of being told they can not attend in-person learning come the fall school year.

Toronto District School Board spokesman Ryan Bird assured parents that when it comes to students with special needs, the board has a number of congregate sites available for them in the fall.

“These schools specialize in supporting these students and that will continue,” he said, noting the TDSB is trying to get as much information as possible to parents in the upcoming days and weeks.

“We get the frustration from parents, and we understand that there are important decisions to be made in sending your child back to school in September,” he said.

“We realize the time is ticking.”




© 2020 The Canadian Press





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Students with disability face more obstacles amid coronavirus: advocates 


Advocacy groups in Ontario say students with disabilities will face additional obstacles returning to class following the pandemic, leaving parents unsure if their children will be fully and safely included in school reopening plans.

The Ontario Autism Coalition and the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance held an online town hall meeting Friday to discuss what they say is the provincial government’s “failure” to put parents at ease with the school year looming.

READ MORE: Coronavirus highlights disparities among Canadians with disabilities

OAC president Laura Kirby-McIntosh said when it comes to welcoming children with disabilities back to school, the province is doing the bare minimum at best.

“The Ministry of Education’s guide to reopening Ontario schools is not really a plan,” she said in an interview. “What we get is some very nice words.”

Story continues below advertisement






Parents say Alberta students with disabilities being left out


Parents say Alberta students with disabilities being left out

Kirby-McIntosh said the province’s school system is designed primarily with non-disabled children in mind, and while children with disabilities are treated as an afterthought.

“One thing that COVID has done very effectively is it has exposed systemic issues across our society — of racism, medical infrastructure —  and now we are getting to school infrastructure.”

A spokeswoman for Education Minister Stephen Lecce said the government has allocated $10 million in additional funding specifically dedicated to supporting students with special education needs.

“We are spending more money than any other province on special education,” Caitlin Clark said.

However, Kirby-McIntosh said schools run on more than just money.

“They run on good planning,” she said. “Yes, they are spending more money on schools, but why wait until the third week of August to announce that? I don’t feel that we are ready, it is not good enough.”

Story continues below advertisement






Warning ignored from B.C. disability advocate about essential hospital visitors


Warning ignored from B.C. disability advocate about essential hospital visitors

AODA Alliance chair David Lepofsky said both his group and the Autism Coalition have offered plenty of proposals and advice to the government, before and during the pandemic, in relation to students with special needs.

“Not one public official at the Ministry of Education picked up the phone to ask for more information, and they have done nothing about it,” he said.

Lepofsky said students with disabilities risk not being fully supported during the pandemic and through their education. Even worse, he said, is the looming fear of being told they can not attend in-person learning come the fall school year.

Toronto District School Board spokesman Ryan Bird assured parents that when it comes to students with special needs, the board has a number of congregate sites available for them in the fall.

Story continues below advertisement

READ MORE: Payments for Canadians with disabilities still in limbo amid coronavirus 

“These schools specialize in supporting these students and that will continue,” he said, noting the TDSB is trying to get as much information as possible to parents in the upcoming days and weeks.

“We get the frustration from parents, and we understand that there are important decisions to be made in sending your child back to school in September,” he said.

“We realize the time is ticking.”



© 2020 The Canadian Press





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Watch the Captioned May 27, 2020 Online Fireside Chat with AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky and Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner on the Impact of COVID-19 on Ontarians with Disabilities – and – Tell Us What Barriers Students with Disabilities Face in Colleges and Universities


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities

Web: www.aodaalliance.org Email: [email protected] Twitter: @aodaalliance Facebook: www.facebook.com/aodaalliance/

Watch the Captioned May 27, 2020 Online Fireside Chat with AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky and Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner on the Impact of COVID-19 on Ontarians with Disabilities – and – Tell Us What Barriers Students with Disabilities Face in Colleges and Universities

May 26, 2020

          SUMMARY

1. Check Out an Online Fireside Chat Tomorrow Night on the Impact of COVID-19 on 2.6 Million Ontarians with Disabilities

Please log on tomorrow night, Wednesday, May 27, 2020 at 8 pm Eastern time, for a live virtual fireside chat with AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky. He’s been invited to speak with the leader of the Green Party of Ontario, Mike Schreiner. Captioning is provided. See the details below.

This fireside chat will address the impact that the COVID-19 crisis is having on people with disabilities and the pressing need for the Ford Government to include their urgent needs in its emergency COVID-19 planning.

The non-partisan AODA Alliance commends the Green party for inviting AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky to take part in this event. The AODA Alliance would be happy to do so with members of the Legislature from any of Ontario’s political parties, as part of our long-term spirit of non-partisanship.

Please encourage others to watch this event. Publicize it on social media and in any other way you can.

            2. More Time for You to Tell Us What Barriers Students with Disabilities Face in Post-Secondary Education in Ontario

The AODA Alliance wants to hear from you about the barriers that students with disabilities face in post-secondary education in Ontario. Back on March 11, 2020, we made public a draft Framework that the AODA Alliance had prepared for your input. It offers ideas on what the promised Education Accessibility Standard should include for students with disabilities in post-secondary education. Just after that, the COVID-19 crisis hit. As a result, we are extending the time to give us feedback on that draft Framework. You can read that draft Framework by visiting https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/what-barriers-do-students-with-disabilities-face-in-post-secondary-education-in-ontario-send-us-feedback-on-our-draft-framework-for-a-post-secondary-education-accessibility-standard/

With the COVID-19 crisis, post-secondary education has all moved online. This has created a series of new barriers for many students with disabilities. We are eager to hear about those barriers, as well as any that students with disabilities encountered before the COVID-19 crisis arose. We also invite your recommendations for what should be done, both during the period when post-secondary education continues online, and after that, for the time when colleges and universities will re-open for students to attend in person.

Please send us your feedback by June 30, 2020. Send your feedback to us at [email protected] .

Please don’t use “track changes” to give us feedback, as it can present accessibility problems. Instead, send us an email with your comments. You can mention the number of the recommendation on which you are commenting or cut and paste from our draft Framework the passage on which you are commenting.

Once we get your feedback, we will finalize this Framework, make it public, and send it to the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee.

 3. Delay and Yet More Delay

There have been 481 days since the Ford Government received the ground-breaking final report of the Independent Review of the implementation of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act by former Ontario Lieutenant Governor David Onley. The Government has announced no comprehensive plan of new action to implement that report. That makes even worse the serious problems facing Ontarians with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis.

There have been 62 days, or over two months, since we wrote Ontario Premier Doug Ford on March 25, 2020 to urge specific action to address the urgent needs of Ontarians with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis. He has not answered. The Premier’s office has not contacted us. The ordeal facing Ontarians with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis is worsened by that delay.

Send us your feedback! Write us at [email protected]. Please stay safe!

          MORE DETAILS

 Announcement from the Green Party of Ontario

Supporting our Disability Community During Covid-19

Please tune in for a discussion between Mike Schreiner, Leader of the Green Party of Ontario and Chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance, David Lepofsky. The two will discuss the unique challenges affecting the disability community during the Covid-19 pandemic, and the policies needed to ensure the disability community does not continue to fall through the cracks of the government’s response.

Wednesday, May 27 8:00-8:45 pm

The event will be closed-captioned and can be streamed on the Green Party of Ontario Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/GreenPartyOntario/

@davidlepofsky @aodaalliance

@OntarioGreens @MikeSchreiner



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Ford Government Acknowledges Ontario Students with Disabilities Face Added Hardships Trying to learn at Home During COVID-19 But Announces No Comprehensive Plan to Remove the Added Disability Barriers that Online Learning Creates for Them


ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE
NEWS RELEASE – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

May 19, 2020, Toronto: Today, as the first media question at Premier Doug Fords Queens Park COVID-19 briefing, the Toronto Star told the premier that parents of special needs children have told the Star that they are particularly struggling at this time and that the Government needs to take a leading role in making sure that their children are being served during the school shutdown. Since schools are now closed until the end of the school year, the Star asked what the Government is doing to help these families and to ensure that school boards are meeting these students needs. The AODA Alliance commends the Star for raising this issue. We have been pressing the Ford Government on this issue for weeks.

Premier Ford referred the question to Education Minister Stephen Lecce. The Minister commendably stated on behalf of the Government that he absolutely agrees with the premise, … that these families are going to need more support now more than ever to support their children enable them to learn while theyre at home. He said on behalf of the Government that we have great concern about these children He pledged that the Government wants to make sure that all kids with exceptionalities are able to get aheadget the support they need.

It is good, but certainly not news, that the Government has told all school boards to deploy all their special education resources during the shutdown, and that the Government earlier consulted with two provincial advisory committees on this issue. It is not yet possible for us to comment on the Governments amorphous announcement of some sort of two-week summer program aimed at helping orient some students with disabilities, such as those with autism, to a return to school. Todays announcement gave no specifics (such as where this will be offered, or which students or how many students will be eligible for this program.)

However, todays Ministers statement falls far short of the urgent action one-third of a million Ontario students with disabilities immediately need. It is good that the Government now publicly acknowledges that students with disabilities and their families suffer additional burdens with the move to online learning as schools are shut down and that the Government should show leadership. However, The Government has not announced any specific comprehensive plan to remove the added barriers that students with disabilities are facing due to the move to online learning.

It is wrong for the Ford Government to continue to leave it to over 70 school boards to each have to wastefully re-invent the wheel as they struggle with the same recurring disability barriers. It is wrong for the Ford Government to leave over-burdened parents of students with disabilities to have to fight the same battles against these disability barriers, one school board at a time, while isolated at home during the COVID-19crisis.

For example, the Ford Government is not even ensuring that the online platforms that each school board and each school uses to hold virtual classes are fully accessible to students, teachers and parents with disabilities, or even to track which of these platforms are being used. The Government has not announced any plan to fix the significant accessibility barriers in the online learning resources that the Government itself provides to teachers, parents and school boards on its Learn at Home website, such as the TVO online resources that have a series of accessibility problems. It was the AODA Alliance that earlier exposed these accessibility problems.

To help frontline teachers and parents of students with disabilities, the AODA Alliance and Ontario Autism Coalition held a helpful May 4 online virtual town hall to share teaching strategies from experts in teaching students with disabilities, now viewed over 1,300 times. Yet despite our repeatedly asking, weve seen no indication that The Government has taken the simple step of sharing this resource with school boards and encouraging them to watch it, much less has the Government organized similar events to share the creative solutions that frontline teachers and parents are inventing all around Ontario.

The AODA alliance remains ready to assist the government on any and all of these issues.

Contact: AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky, [email protected] Twitter: @aodaalliance

Background Resources
The April 30, 2020 letter from the AODA Alliance to Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce, which sets out a list of concrete and constructive requests for action that the AODA Alliance presented to Ontarios Ministry of Education.
The May 4, 2020 virtual town hall on teaching students with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis, organized by the AODA Alliance and the Ontario Autism Coalition.

The AODA Alliances education web page, that documents its efforts over the past decade to advocate for Ontario’s education system to become fully accessible to students with disabilities
The AODA Alliances COVID-19 web page, setting out our efforts to advocate for governments to meet the urgent needs of people with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis.
The earlier widely-watched April 7, 2020 virtual public forum by the AODA Alliance and Ontario Autism Coalition on the overall impact of the COVID-19 crisis on 2.6 million Ontarians with disabilities.




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